OIRAC report for June 1999


As a member of the Long Range Planning Panel, I have been closely involved with the whole process. My personal view is that the OIR parts of the report were well balanced, with requests for expanded funding for Gemini, a large CSA investment in NGST, money for WIRCAM at CFHT and Megaprime operations, and in the longer term a CFHT upgrade and money for studies leading towards a Very Large Optical Telescope (VLOT). This balance was significantly altered by a strong push to get rapid access for a wide field 8m class telescope (WF8m), with a suggestion that it go on the current CFHT site. This has caused quite a bit of consternation both at the CFHT itself, and also with our French partners. By design, the LRPP process was and is all-inclusive, with essentially no proposal being 'rejected', and so at present all the above options are still on the table. Exactly what the long-term effects of the WF8m initiative will be remains to be seen.

It would be very useful at the coming CASCA meeting to discuss carefully exactly how we want to manage all parts of the hoped for LRPP funding, and how we will eventually apportion the presumably finite) funds amongst the many competing proposals listed in the LRPP report. I would

(again personally) much prefer that this discussion NOT be broken up into waveband subgroups followed by a second battle between these subgroups, but there is certainly a long tradition in favour of this approach. My perception though is that this inevitably leads to complaints such as - "What are the optical astronomers getting out of the LRPP?". Such questions have two responses (1) What is an optical astronomer - some-one who refuses to use photons outside of 3200-10,000A?, and (2) The LRPP report is based on the request that 'optical astronomers' get all the things listed above, along with ALMA, the SKA, and a host of others. It follows that we had better start thinking soon about how to help build, co-ordinate and use them all. I would welcome a chance to discuss this with the CASCA board at the coming CASCA meeting.

Gemini (provided by Stephanie Cote)

Gemini North had first engineering light in late February 1999, with the Infrared Imager QUIRC, which is on loan from UH. Early commissioning work revealed problems with the primary mirror actuators, the secondary mirror, and acquisition and guiding capabilities. Much of this spring has been devoted to improving these systems in preparation for the formal dedication of Gemini North on June 26. It is hoped that high resolution images will be obtained with the UH Adaptive Optics systems in time for the dedication. It is anticipated that the commissioning of the Near-IR Imager (NIRI) will start in the early summer. Because of the serious schedule slip of GNIRS (to be completed in 3 years), NIRI has now been upgraded with grisms providing R=1500 in JHK and R=700 in L and M. Various options to 'fill the gap' in terms of IR spectroscopic capabilities are currently under review; for example, visitor intruments may provide these capabilities during the short-term, while dedicated IR MOS or IFU instruments may be delivered within the next few years.

The first proposal deadline will be on the 31st of January 2000, for shared-risk use of the telescope starting on June 1st 2000.

Gemini South has now a complete enclosure and azimuth track; the construction of the mount and telescope structure will begin in July.

CFHT (provided by John Hutchings)

Details of CFHT operations and plans are posted on the CFHT website. The most comprehensive coverage appears in the SAC reports, which follow meetings that are held in May and October. Other projects such as Megaprime have their own websites with greater detail.

Current issues involve planning of major surveys with the 1.1 degree field Megacam, by a survey working group; funding and planning for a wide field NIR camera; queue scheduled service observing for direct imaging instruments; changes in Time Assgnment committees as Gemini ramps up; decommissioning current instruments as they become obsolete, or as driven by budget considerations; replacement of the CFHT by a modern larger telescope.


The CADC is preparing an archive for the FUSE mission. It is also leading the design work for a Gemini Archive. A major new initiative within the CADC is Data Mining. The basic idea being to move beyond just storing data, but also allowing the user to ask the archive scientific questions and get sensible answers. As an example, one part of this initiative includes producing automatic catalogues of sources within HST WFPC2 images, with photometric and morphological information which the user can then query. Related to this are preparations for archiving the vast amounts of information that will be produced by Megaprime on CFHT.

OIRAC Membership

After discussions with the CASCA board it was agreed that the OIRAC membership would be allowed to shrink to a steady state membership of 1, along with an expectation that the committee would be reformed for specific tasks. This approach was tested with the current LRPP process, in which I called on John Hutchings, Rene Doyon and added Gordon Walker and Chris Pritchett to get advice for the OIRAC submission to the LRPP. I would claim that this process worked reasonably well, although see above for some comments on the OIR aspects of the LRPP submission. John Hutchings and Rene Doyon both rotate off at this CASCA meeting. I note that for the present report, I obtained text from John Hutchings (as CFHT SAC representative), and Stephanie Cote for Gemini.

Current membership:

Name Affiliation Email End of OIRAC Term

S. Morris(Chair) DAO/NRC simon@dao.nrc.ca 1997

J. Hutchings DAO/NRC hutchings@dao.nrc.ca 1999

R. Doyon U de Montreal doyon@ere.umontreal.ca 1999

Simon L. Morris